For more than two hundred years, the American republic has grown and
flourished, politically free and economically prosperous, as its component
institutions and social classes, investors, managers, workers and
government, have worked cooperatively to the advantage
of all. True, there has been class conflict and struggle along the way, but
our laws and institutions have resolved them peacefully. Now an
emerging class of wealthy and powerful elites, the “oligarchs,” are
dismantling this splendid political structure.
The new oligarchs insist that without investments issuing
from their great wealth, the nation's economy would collapse. This is,
at best, a half truth. Granted, without
investment, the workers would not have the tools (the “capital”)
with which to produce goods or provide services. However, and conversely, without the
anticipation of a return on investment – the production of goods and
services by the workers – there would be no investments and hence no “tools” to produce the nation’s
wealth. In a flourishing private economy each class -- investor and worker
-- is wholly dependent upon its partner-class. Each flourish together,
unless one class cripples the other, in which case they fail together.
This is an elementary fact, taught in any Econ. 101 class. Yet the emergent
class of American oligarchs that have taken control of our government, our
media, and quite possibly the means of counting ballots as well, seem to
believe that they can impoverish the producers of wealth and the next
generations, and not suffer for it themselves. History has shown
conclusively that they are wrong; but unless they are thwarted in the coming
election, history will repeat itself to the profound sorrow of all of us.
In the last two decades, the dominating investors and managers of our
corporate economy have transformed themselves from economic symbionts
to economic parasites. The concepts are adopted from biology.
Symbiosis is an association of two species (symbionts) for
mutual advantage. The honeybee and the blossom is one example. Another is
the association between sea otters and sea kelp. The otters feed on the kelp
predators such as sea urchins, and the kelp provide the otters with
protection from orcas, sharks and other predators.
In contrast, a parasite is an organism that takes its nourishment
from another “host” organism, and by so doing weakens the host, and in
extreme cases, kills it. When it kills the host, it kills itself as well,
but only after it has scattered its eggs to other unfortunate hosts. The
canine heart worm is a case in point. The blood fluke of “snail fever” (schistosomiasis)
With the rise of so-called “conservatism” (in fact, a radicalism), the
investing class has transformed itself from an economic symbiont –
prospering conjointly with its worker-producer-partner – into an economic parasite
– impoverishing its “host,” the workers, and thus, eventually, itself. Like
the heart-worm devouring the source and sustenance of its very life, the
oligarchs are squeezing the productivity and the disposable income from the
workers, which is to say, the well-springs of the oligarch’s wealth. And
when the economy collapses, as it must if present trends continue (i.e.,
massive federal deficits, outsourcing, unemployment, income loss,
impoverishment of education and research), the economic parasites will
surely be crushed along with the rest of us.
As our national wealth flows from the poor and middle classes to the
hyper-wealthy, we are moving toward a new feudalism; a very small class of
opulently wealthy families living off the labor of the impoverished masses.
Why can’t a new feudalism, despite its manifest injustice, be sustainable? After all, it succeeded for centuries in medieval Europe, and into the
nineteenth century in Russia.
It can not succeed for several reasons, including foremost the reason that
it failed in Romanov Russia. Feudalism is incompatible with industrial
society – especially with an “information economy.”
In a modern economy, wealth issues out of cash-flow. The industrialist grows
wealthy with both the production and the sale of his product. And the
product will only sell if there are buyers. I repeat: a product will only
sell if there are buyers. (Are you taking notes, Republicans? There will
be a quiz at the end of this lecture). As the middle class and the poor lose
their disposable income, there are fewer sales. And then what? To find out,
read the history of the crash of 1929 and of the great depression that
Economic indicators reveal that the median annual family income in the
United States has dropped by $1,500 (in "constant dollars"). And that’s not all. Insurance and
medical costs are rising, along with gasoline prices, and the costs of
higher education. The interest rates and thus mortgage costs are bound to
follow. Aggregate national consumer debt will soon be “maxed out.” The
prospect of job loss looms. Throughout the realm, families are deciding that
the new car purchase will have to be put off another year or two. The
vacation will have to be cancelled. The auto, travel and entertainment
industries decline and lay-off workers. Down, down, down, goes the spiral.
When Henry Ford raised the wages of his workers, his competitors asked what
on earth he was thinking. “If I don’t pay my workers more,” he replied, “who
will buy my cars?” Bushenomics amounts to “reverse Henry-Fordism:” keep
wages low, suppress unions and collective bargaining, hire “temps” to avoid
paying health and retirement benefits, cut back on employment and send jobs
overseas, and watch the mean family income drop. Give the super-rich
huge tax cuts, and give the CEO a salary and perks such that he
earns in four hours what his median worker earns in a year.
Do all that, but then don’t be surprised that when the cash flow from
“below” dries up, there will be no more market for the corporate products. Then the corporate “parasites” will discover that when they starve the host,
they starve themselves as well.
Another reason why parasitic
neo-feudalism won’t work: modern economies require an educated work
force. As the libertarians constantly remind us, the
brain, not the muscle, drives modern technology which, like the
shark, must constantly move forward to survive. Technology is science put to work (and we are well aware of what the
Busheviks think of science). However, that necessarily educated public
acquires an inclination to think independently and critically, and thus to
demand a voice in government and a fair share of the national wealth that
they are creating. Such a public is unwilling to be the “host” that feeds
the oligarchic parasites.
Is it any wonder, then, that the Bush regime has little regard for
education? Bush’s “Leave No Child Behind” program is unfunded, thus leaving
the children behind. Rising tuition costs (up 34% since Bush took office)
are closing the college doors to middle-class children. No matter, says Karl
Rove: "As people do better, they start voting like Republicans... unless
they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be
too much of a good thing."
Count on it: a nation that believes that there is such a thing as “too much
education” is a nation in decline. Or as Alfred North Whitehead put it: “In
the conditions of modern life, the rule is absolute: that nation that does
not value trained intelligence is doomed.”
When the classical education of the Romans was overtaken by the dogma and
superstition of the conquering barbarians, the western world fell into
several centuries of dark ages. Bush’s “faith-based” denigration of science
and trained intelligence will not cast the world into a new dark age – just
the United States. Science and humanistic learning will flourish in Europe
and the Pacific Rim, enhanced, no doubt, by a diaspora of expatriate
American intelligencia. Then the United States will be “left behind.” (See
Great, American Republic”).
Finally, parasitic neo-feudalism won’t work, because a flourishing modern
economy presupposes civil order, and a “consent of the governed” – a sense
amongst the populace at large that the government is “their government,” and
that they are significant participants in the economy, the product of which
is fairly distributed amongst the population.
The oligarchs who now control our government and our media have succeeded in
large part by convincing the general public that “government is not the
solution, government is the problem” (Ronald Reagan), and that the key to
prosperity is liberate “free enterprise” from the “constraints” of
government regulation. Too few of us appreciate that laws and regulations
were put in place to protect the public from the abuses of concentrated
corporate power and wealth. Thus we have established, through “our
government,” the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug
Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission – the latter designed
to prevent a repeat of the “crash of 1929.” (See
“Mr. DeLay Goes
The oligarchs, through their wholly-owned subsidiary, the mainstream media,
have sold the American public on the idea that government and regulation are
“the problem.” As they now begin to have their unregulated way, the rest of
us are about to be reminded, through brutal practical experience, that when
at one time government was truly of, by and for the people, it was a “solution,” as it
served to protect that people from the abuses of power, privilege and
If parasitic neo-feudalism continues and expands through the second term of
Bushista rule, it may devastate us, but it must eventually fail. For unlike
the pre-revolutionary Russian serfs, who never knew a better life, the
American people know what it is like to live in a free and prosperous
country. There is a limit to how much more loss of freedom and declining
standard of living they will tolerate. The oligarchs are bound to exceed
that tolerance, and then they will be overthrown.
compellingly obvious: not only in theory, but also from the
historical record. So why can’t these oligarchs and their media toadies
I answer with a familiar parable: A spinster finds an injured serpent, takes
it home, and nurses it back to health, whereupon the serpent strikes with a
fatal bite. In her final moment of consciousness, the woman asks: “how could
you do this to me, after I saved your life?”
The serpent replied: “I am a serpent – this is what I do.”
Surely a significant portion of the oligarchy and the media must be aware
that they are devouring the “host” that feeds and sustains their wealth, and
that they are leading our country, and surely themselves with it, to
devastation and ruin.
So why do they persist? Because their lust for power and their greed is
unconstrained – because, given the opportunity, “this is what they do.”
The founders of our republic knew this full well, which is why they set up a
structure of checks and balances, and a rule of law, to protect us from such
abuses of wealth and power.
Heretofore, as our commonwealth moved
dangerously from a regime of mutual advantage (symbiosis) toward a
parasitism of wealth and privilege, these abuses were “pushed back”
by the checks and balances of our tri-partite government, by the law
and the courts, by a free and diverse press, and by the ballot box.
No more. The oligarchs now control it all.
And so they shall unless we the people take back our government and our